Ella and Emily

Emily and Ella’s paths would have intertwined quite a bit between the early days of  Scoil Alca and when Ella left for the States in the mid twenties. They shared similar interests and would have mixed in both Gaelic League and Nationalist circles. They also met socially in artistic circles too. In an Irish Times article Irish Artists “At Home”, both Emily and Ella were listed as attendees at the exhibition opening. Quite a few Nationalists were present too, names such as Countess Markieviez, whose husband was showing work, the Gifford sisters and a Miss Comerford, all future members of Cumann na mBan. In a few short years these women would meet up again but under completely different circumstances.

DSCF3596Mr. George Russell’s Pictures
By Our Lady Correspondent.
On Saturday afternoon Mr, George Russell, Mrs Baker, and Count Markieviez were “at home” to their friends to their friends at the Hall, Merrion Row. The gathering was extremely interesting, and representative of the artists who are taking a prominent part in the Irish renaissance. Painters, actors, dramatists, and poets were there in genial intercourse, and the “rigidity” of the ordinary “at home” was entirely absent in the atmosphere of Upper Bohemia…

In 1912 Ella moved to rural Co. Wicklow. She was part of a network of people that stored guns obtained from the Howth Gun Running incident of 1914.The same year Cumman na mBan was formed but she did not join the organisation at the time, but she did begin writing for Sinn Féin.  She was in Dublin at the time, but did not take part in the Easter Rising for she was not informed of the plans, as she was seen to be more of an artist that a revolutionary; Helena Molony who was in Liberty hall during Easter week explains Ella’s position in her Witness Statement to the Bureau of Military History many years later.

“About 6.30 or 7 on Holy Saturday evening, while the shop was still open, I went out for a half an hour to give a letter to Ella Young. I knew I was going to fight the next day and I wanted to hand it to her her, so that I must have then that the Rising was to be on Easter Sunday. I should think I knew it a week beforehand, although I cannot now say how I knew it. I do not remember being told definitely I intended to race to where Ella Young lived and leave the letter not telling her anything about the coming fight. I was closely associated with her and she was very much with us but was more of an artist.”

She was a suspect but evaded imprisonment. In the following posts there will be a day to day account of the Rising, as  documented by Ella.Influenced by the Rising and Countess Markievicz’s release from prison in 1917 Ella Young Then became a member of Cumann na mBan, and in 1919 began distributing arms again.
After the Ireland gained its freedom she went to the US on a lecture tour and  ended up staying on, lecturing in Celtic Mythology in Berkeley University in California.

After touring the US as a lecturer for six years, she was granted citizenship and settled in California to teach at the University of California at Berkeley and continue her folklore studies, shifting her focus to Mexican and Native American legends. Retiring only when she no longer had the energy to teach, she lived out the rest of her life gardening, writing, and attending to the whims of her cats. Read more

Ella's cat Mascot. Courtesy  of National Library of Ireland

Ella’s cat Mascot. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland

In 1951 at the age of 81 she wrote her autobiography Flowering Dusk; Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately. She died in the USA in 1956 aged 88 never having returned to live in the country that she played a part in freeing.


Irish Times Articles, Monday September 13 1913 Page 9
No Ordinary Women; Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years 1900-1923, McCoole Sinead,2003, The O’Brien Press, Dublin, Pages 213-214.
Flowering Dusk; Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately, Young Ella, 1945, Logmans, Green and Co., New York, Toronto. 1945